It's not just what you say, it's how you say it: Intonation, yes and no.
Daniel Goodhue, Michael Wagner
August 2015

Recent research has demonstrated that the English polar particles yes and no are interchangeable in responses to negative yes/no questions (YNQs), at least when accompanied by a following sentence conveying the intended interpretation. Intuitions have also been reported that a special intonational tune is used on positive responses to negative YNQs. Bare polar particle responses have been argued to be most likely interpreted as negative. This paper reports on experiments testing these claims, and it aims to improve our understanding of the special tune involved. In two experiments, we demonstrate the interchangeability of particles in responses to negative YNQs, even if certain readings of bare particles are available only with the help of certain intonations. We show that the contour most commonly used in polar responses when not using the declarative contour is the contradiction contour, and propose an analysis of the contour that can explain the conditions on its use. In a perception experiment, we demonstrate that this contour can impact hearers' interpretations of bare polar particle responses.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/002866
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Deniz Ozyildiz & Thuy Bui (eds.), 2015. Proceedings of the 45th Meeting of the North-East Linguistic Society (NELS).
keywords: intonation, yes, no, polar particles, response particles, questions, contradiction contour, semantics, phonology
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